Amir Khan gets back on the boxing horse against Carlos Molina on Dec. 15, as the former prodigy looks to bounce back from two consecutive losses.
If he cannot finish the task in Los Angeles against Molina, his reign as a contender is over in the light welterweight division.
Khan (26-3) has suffered three losses to fighters he was expected to defeat.
His first professional loss was a stunning defeat at the hands of Breidis Prescott, 18 fights into his career.
Khan was knocked out 30 seconds into the fight, and questions began to emerge as to his ability to take on strikers like Floyd Mayweather in the future.
His next two losses—to Lamont Peterson and Danny Garcia—were both clouded in wonder.
Peterson won in a controversial split decision, and their scheduled rematch was canceled when Peterson tested positive for drugs before the impending bout.
Khan then was embarrassed by Garcia in the fourth round of a bout he was heavily favored to win. Falling to the canvas in the third and again in the penultimate fourth, Khan suffered his third career loss amid more questions of his mental stability and ability to withstand solid strikers.
Khan went so far as to get rid of Freddie Roach—the man who took charge of his training after the loss to Prescott—and replaced him with Virgil Hunter.
Hunter has capitalized on his success with Andre Ward, the undefeated super middleweight title holder. Khan hopes that the 2011 Trainer of the Year can help rebuild some of that same luster, as the 18 straight wins to start his career now look decidedly less impressive.
Against Molina, another fighter he's expected to beat handily, Khan will have to face the mortality of his career choice.
A third consecutive loss would end his reign as the prodigy of the division, if it hasn't already been done by bad losses in warm-up fights.
Molina has a 17-0 career record. Although his fights haven't been against the high-level talent that Khan has faced over the course of his career, you could argue Molina is on a similar path that Khan was at this point in their respective careers.
If you think Molina doesn't know he has a chance to knock Khan—the 2004 silver medalist at the Olympics—out of long-term contention, guess again.
Molina is fresh off a win over Marcos Jimenez, which gave him the vacant WBO Intercontinental Lightweight Title.
Khan knows the world is gunning for him. His early success led to a high-profile status that many fighters never achieve, and questions of his boxing IQ started to emerge after poor defense in his three losses.
Smarts are something Hunter hopes to bring to the table against Molina, as the trainer looks to get his new fighter back on track. Here's what Hunter had to say before training reaches full swing, per The Sun.
“Amir is an extremely talented fighter and I’m very happy to become his new trainer. I’ve seen a lot of him and he has many attributes such as his speed and heart. There are certain small aspects of his game that I’m intending to work on in order to help him fulfil his enormous potential.”
Facing a fighter like Molina gives Khan the credibility to establish himself as a prime-time fighter again. It also gives him something to lose, because he will still likely be favored to win on Dec. 15.
Should Khan suffer defeat, any rise towards the top is over.
With a win, he'll start a long climb back up the ladder—although the British fighter has plenty of work to do to appease fans and boxing faithful as an elite fighter.
With Timothy Bradley and Floyd Mayweather both not getting any younger, it's important that Khan makes a statement against Molina if he ever wants to move on to fight the world's best.